I filter this experience though these words and many like them that speak to Gods promise. No matter how bad life gets, my heart rejoices in the greatest gift, salvation and nothing can take that from me.
1 Corinthians 13
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
This verse is to remind me how to love, though impossible by my own power, it is given as a gift from God. And it reminds me of the love God has for me.
I had my appointment with the SGLI (Military Life Insurance). I had to drop off the death certificate and sign the paperwork. Then I confirmed that Andrea has been removed form the military personnel system and I am officially single. I was briefed on the “Death Benefits.” Does that strike anyone else as a strange term? What benefit do I have? What some money, the ability to pay off Nic’s school loan? Is this my Benefit? Have I benefited in some way? The chance to live alone? The chance to marry again? Are these benefits? If they are I did not ask for them. I did not seek them. I don’t want them. I just want to touch my wives hand. To hear her say I love you in my ear. To hold her against my body, to cover her small frame and make her feel safe. Do you realize what a gift you have when you laugh with someone you love? When you have the chance to walk into your house to screaming kids and a tired wife? Do you know what a gift it is to say goodnight to someone you love? No there is no such thing as a “Death Benefit” trust me on this one. There is nothing you want that will be of any value when you reach out in the night and find the bed is empty. Or when you walk home and find only silence greets you. I have no benefit. I have only a pain an emptiness waiting to be filled. Yet filling it involves it own set of pain.
All that would have been hard enough but that was nothing to what lay ahead. I left with my head hanging. I went and put gas in the car and then went home. Why I did not know. But I had an appointment with grief; it was just not on my schedule. I walked into a totally empty house for the first time. There was no one but me. I walked into the living room. There was the trigger to my grief, an 8X10 picture of Andrea, my favorite, her head in her hand, her blue eyes piecing me. I just began to cry, as I have never cried in my life. That is all I will say.
I ended up in our room. I cleared her side of the bed for the first time and laid down there with her picture. I cried myself to sleep, trying to come to terms with why I was crying and what had happened in my life. I was no longer one with Andrea. There in the picture was part of me. We were joined together and spent 27 yrs and 8 months becoming one. Today I really began to understand I was no longer one with her, I was just me again, just as the Air Force made me with the click of the mouse button, single. But the separation is not instantaneous nor without a great amount of pain as I feel God split apart what He joined. I fight to stay one with Andrea but I know I can not. I have to leave that life behind. God took her from me. I have to accept that. I have to listen to my own words and trust Him. And I do, I just feel bad leaving her because I have a life ahead of me, a future. We were just so young our life was not complete, and I’m left at a point in my life where I have to live again. I have to love again. There in lies additional pain in my life. Because I loved Andrea so deeply, I feel devoted to her, yet I know I will love again. Am I betraying Andrea? I want to stay close to Andrea but she is no where to be found. Just a picture on the wall. I have no choice but to move on and accept my future as a gift from a God I trust. My relief from the sharp pain I feel is to allow Andrea’s memory to fade and the pain to soften, but I love her. How can I do this? I’m trapped between a place I can not stay but don't want to leave and a place I have go but feel I shouldn’t. I have to remember Andrea loved me and told me to go on living if she died. I have to know my only hope and my place in life is forward, away from this debilitating pain. It is not that I did not love her that I move on.
Do you think I did not love Andrea? I hope it does not appear that way. Do you know the depth of love I had for Andrea? That I did not ask for this. Do you know that I’m torn by living? That without her I’m suddenly not myself. I never sought this pain, or the future I will live. I did not want another life outside of Andrea. This is not my choice, it is my life. I loved Andrea far beyond anything physical. I hate that the word love is associated so much with the physical or used so flippantly as to describe our feeling towards a car or a good meal. It cheapens a word that means so much more. I loved Andrea to the depth of my soul, to the very core of my being. I loved her as myself, her desires were my desires. My joy was meeting her needs, making her dreams come true and watching her become the woman God called her to be. I loved her the best I could, I tried to love her as Christ loved the church and I would have laid my life down for her. I only wish I could have done just that. I was able to love her so deeply because she loved me that way. We had an absolute trust in each other. Never would we be harmed, no failure would ever be celebrated, no fall would bring rejoicing. When I failed, she picked me up, never condemning only encouraging me. Why? Because she loved me more then herself and her desire was for my success, and mine for her. It was the perfect circle of giving and receiving. It was as God intended marriage to be and I was blessed to live it. We grew together with this foundation of trust in each other and that was the catalyst to a deeper love. We were best friends as well as husband and wife and we filtered life’s events through our love for each other. When you do that there is nothing that will rise to the level above your spouse. So what can you argue about? What means more then the one you love? What would I put before Andrea? A job? How could something I wanted be of more importance then my greatest desire in life, my wife’s happiness? When seen through our love everything else fell away as unimportant and secondary. Happiness was in each other. I had everything in life money could not buy. Do you know that? Do you understand how much I loved her and how much she loved me? Do you know she took a second assignment to Alaska because she knew I loved it there? Did you know she hated it there, the dark winters? Do you know I told my boss I could not stay and become the commander of the 90th Fighter Squadron because Andrea needed better health care. Did you know my one dream in life was to command that squadron? Do you know I ended up commanding what others saw as a meaningless squadron, a squadron people turned down as beneath them? Do you know I could not have been prouder to be that commander? That I was glad to give up my dream for her? Do you know God blessed that squadron? Do you know how much I loved her? I’m not saying we were perfect, far from that. What I’m saying is we were very imperfect but we loved each other and those imperfections never rose to a level of importance greater then our love for each other. Do you know I have love this deeply? Do you know the depth of pain I know feel?
Do you see what I lost on Dec 17th? Do you see why I struggle to move on? And making it worse is knowing I have to. Do you see why I struggle with living and going on? If I was 75 when Andrea died I would not have the problem. I would not have a second life ahead of me that pulls at me. But God took Andrea at 45 and not 75 and I believe that was for a reason. I trust it is what is right for me. I trust that what lies ahead for me is for a reason and what I learned by loving Andrea and the man I am today is for a reason. I will tell you I expect to love that way again. It is the only way I know how to love. The only way I want to love. And I will know her when I feel I can put my trust in her. It is based on being able to trust and nothing to do with the physical. I will feel my love for her before I ever see my love for her, just as I did with Andrea.
I’m not afraid of what God has for me. I just need to adjust to being torn apart. Like ripping a sheet where the threads are interwoven so tight they resist the tearing but eventually under enough force the bonds break producing that ripping sound. That is what I heard today in my wailing, a ripping sound. It rings in my ears as I type this.